Chapter 30 — The Exchanged Prince
Yun Manor’s main hall was rather spacious, and of course, lavishly furnished. Twenty chairs, each made from precious, ancient sandalwood, were divided evenly into two rows of seats, their intricately-carved legs planted on the plush red carpet that adorned the floor.
Two individuals were already seated inside the hall. Sitting in the master seat was Zhou Dynasty’s crown prince, Zhou Tianyu. The four-clawed dragon embroidered on his golden-yellow robes was fierce and ferocious-looking, which in turn accentuated his lofty identity.
He was quite handsome, but lurking in his seemingly tranquil eyes was a gleam of sharpness that normal people would fail to detect. Evidently, this crown prince wasn’t a simple man. When he saw Yun Qi walk in with Yun Wu in tow, he continued to placidly sip his tea.
“Your old subject pays his respects to Your Highness the Crown Prince,” Yun Qi cupped his hands together and bowed to Zhou Tianyu, his attitude neither humble nor arrogant.
In response to Yun Qi bowing instead of kneeling, Zhou Tianyu merely gave a gentle smile, and his lofty attitude from earlier disappeared instantly. He said, “Elder, there is no need to be so courteous. We are troubling you with our sudden visit. Do sit down.”
At the crown prince’s prompting, Yun Qi took a seat in one of the side chairs, and Yun Wu followed suit. She had not uttered a single word since they entered, so Zhou Tianyu couldn’t help but raise an eyebrow.
Looking up, his gentle yet perceptive gaze fell on her. “Which Yun family’s Miss might this be?” Yun Lengyi1 had no sons and nine daughters, but the only ones worth noting were the trio of exceptionally talented ones.
“This brat2 is the Ninth Miss, named Yun Wu. Because she was born with a weak body constitution, she has had little interaction with outsiders. She is still ignorant of multiple courtesies. This old subject requests that Your Highness and Prince Long show leniency, lest she behaves out of conduct.” Yun Qi explained. At the same time, he had conveniently provided an excuse for Yun Wu’s lack of greeting.
Ninth? That sickly good-for-nothing from the back mountain?
Zhou Tianyu’s brows furrowed lightly, and in his eyes, a touch of disdain took root. However, he quickly covered it up before saying, “So it’s the Ninth Miss. Yesterday, I heard Elder Yun intends to have you participate in the tournament? Would the Ninth Miss’s body be able to withstand it?”
Yun Wu replied, her voice imbued with fragility, “This subject is most grateful for Your Highness’s concern and will make every effort as to not hinder my three sisters.”
“Ninth Miss has such determination. That is indeed good, but…” Zhou Tianyu hesitated.
“Your Highness, please be at ease. The brat is only sickly because she has led a sedentary life. This year’s tournament shall serve as an opportunity for her to gain experience and exercise, nothing more,” Yun Qi said loudly. The way he worded it was very astute.
Dropping the topic, Zhou Tianyu turned his head to speak with the man sitting beside him, “Long San3, this is Yun family’s Ninth Miss. During the tournament, you must take good care of her. I shall place her safety in your hands.”
The man had his face hidden behind a black face veil, and his voice was particularly unpleasant to listen to. It sounded like his vocal cords were severely damaged, “Okay. I will definitely protect Ninth Miss well.”
After briefly sifting through her acquired memories, Yun Wu found no impressions of this “Long San.” Yun Qi, on the other hand, frowned.
Prince Long was actually Long Xu Kingdom’s third prince4, but due to an inauspicious divination from the kingdom’s Imperial Preceptor, the prince was sent as a child to Zhou Dynasty, where he became an exchanged prince. Alas, fifteen years ago, a sudden fire broke out and ruined both Prince Long’s countenance and meridians, so he became a complete good-for-nothing.
Him, protect Yun Wu? Wasn’t the crown prince clearly implying that a good-for-nothing should be paired with another good-for-nothing? Needless to say, that didn’t settle well with Old Master Yun.
“This subject is most grateful for Your Highness’s good intentions, but I will be fine following my three sisters. I won’t bother Prince Long—” Without warning, she broke off as violent coughs wracked her body.
Immediately catching on from the gleam in her eyes, Yun Qi abruptly deepened his frown and feigned alarm, “Brat, you just had to insist on accompanying me here. Now that you’ve seen His Highness’s grandeur, hurry back to rest. Focus on recovering your health, the tournament is in two days.”
One stunned moment later, Yun Wu couldn’t help but want to give Yun Qi a big thumbs-up. To be capable of getting the message that effortlessly—what a veteran, indeed.
Up until he spoke, she had been coughing so hard that her complexion paled, giving off the impression that she just might suddenly cough to death. She left, staggering the entire way out.
Courtesies? From beginning to end, not once did she give a proper salute. Zhou Tianyu stared after her departing back. Although he harbored no blame, the disdain and contempt in his eyes increased.
However, even in his dreams, he would never have imagined this “good-for-nothing” he was belittling to be a heaven-defying talent who was already at the early stage of Rank Five Practitioner.
On a small, remote hilltop in the back mountain.
Upon leaving Yun Manor’s main hall, Yun Wu’s previous infirmity was nowhere to be found.
Leaning down, she plucked a blade of grass and left it to dangle from her lips. She fell backwards onto the grass, folded both hands behind her head, and crossed her knees. The morning sunlight catered to her comfort.
When she heard about the crown prince’s arrival, she had tagged after Yun Qi so she could watch and learn. Plus, she wanted to see for herself how elegant and graceful this crown prince “she” had supposedly tried to curry favor with was5.
After the encounter, she couldn’t resist the contemptuous sneer that curved her lips. Although he could be considered handsome, the way she saw it, he was nothing more than mediocre and simply incomparable to that man.
Speaking of that man, she had not seen him since that night…6
Out of nowhere, Long Qingxie’s strikingly attractive and bewitching face surfaced in her mind. Her eyes snapped open in shock.
Damn, why must he keep appearing in her thoughts?
All of a sudden, a drifting breeze carried the sound of soft footsteps to her ears. Her austere eyes flashed. Without delay, she flipped one of her hands over and steeply shot out two silver needles.
“Ah!” A yelp, and then a round, black ball-like thing could be seen tumbling down the small hillside. How embarrassing. The instant the “black ball” clambered up from the ground, Yun Wu realized it was actually a person dressed in black clothing.
The ice-cold edge of her dagger had already left a thin, red line on his throat.
“Who are you—” Abruptly, she paused. Why? Because the sight that greeted her was one liable of frightening an average person enough to make them scream. Having been thoroughly disfigured by flames, it was an absolutely hideous and terrifying face.
Seemingly to have just registered what had happened, he stammered, “Don’t, don’t look at me, don’t look at me…” as bewilderment and confusion clouded his eyes. Disregarding the burning pain at his neck, he suddenly covered his face and ducked his head. He dropped down to his hands and knees and grabbed his black face veil from the ground, where it had fallen.
With hasty hands, he adjusted it back around his head, covering up his countenance.
He was the one who had arrived with the crown prince and accompanied him in the main hall earlier, Prince Long. Yun Wu regained her composure at the same time he did. However, what had frightened her wasn’t his face, but his eyes; those bright, obsidian orbs shone in a way that inexplicably reminded her of that man.
Back then in the main hall, she had felt a familiar aura from him, but she hadn’t dwelled on it. Now that she was, she wondered, could he be…?
Narrowing her keen eyes, she unhesitantly struck out with lightning speed to take off his veil, then she pinched his hideous face between her fingers and pulled, trying to tear off that fake face mask, but…
“Ow, hurt, it hurts…” He cried out shakily in that peculiarly hoarse voice of his. Meanwhile, the elasticity of his cheeks told Yun Wu that his skin was definitely real. Moreover, his hair was black. Add on the way he looked at her, with self-inferiority flickering in his eyes, glistening teardrops gathering at his outer corners, and extreme grievance, Yun Wu wanted to —for the first time— burrow into a hole.
The situation… she felt like a lewd playboy who had ruthlessly deflowered and devastated this delicate flower.
Yun Wu cleared her throat and apologized, “Sorry, wrong person, excuse me.”
With a whisk, the veil in her hand was back over his face again. She sat up while simultaneously collecting her needles from both of his legs and tucked the needles into her robes.
As if nothing had happened at all, she laid back down and closed her eyes so she could enjoy the sunlight anew.
“Um, um…” A coarse voice stammered, but Yun Wu didn’t open her eyes. Even so, she knew that he had furtively took a seat beside her. Hearing no response from her prompted him to sneakily shift his butt closer, slowly drawing near.
“Um… Can I…”
“If you dare come any closer, I’ll cut you in half,” She threatened coldly as she opened her eyes to stare at the black-clothed man, who had already nestled his body next to hers.
Evidently, she’d frightened him so much that he carelessly rolled down the narrow hilltop again.
Truth be told, Yun Wu’s disposition had always been chilly. Towards many things, she was calm and indifferent, but today, her mood was likely a bit uncontrollable due to the embarrassment from before.
“Umm…” Again, that “black ball” clambered up and started weakly. Finally, she couldn’t stand it anymore. Her eyes flew open, and she glared at him coldly, barking, “Um, um, um, um what?”
If it weren’t for her leaning forward and stealthily probing his meridians earlier when she was picking out her needles from his legs, confirming that his ruined meridians were without foundation, she wouldn’t have allowed him to inch closer, and closer again.
The man trembled for a moment, “I, I’m sorry.” Yun Wu really couldn’t understand him. How could a big ol’ man like him get scared just from that? Unsure herself whether it was due to annoyance or soft-heartedness, she said, “Alright, alright, stop trembling. Whatever you want to say, just say it.”
“I, I’m sorry, my face, scared you,” was the reply, making her knit her brows together.
Scared her? Did it? If all it took to scare her was a face, what was she still doing in this world? Plus, her own experiences were beyond anything anyone could ever imagine.
“It didn’t. To me, appearance, whether it be beautiful or ugly, is but a sheet of human skin.”
She shot him a glance and didn’t bother gauging his expression. After saying her part, she stuck another blade of grass between her lips and continued to absorb the warm sunlight.
Unbeknownst to her, the second she closed her eyes…
Beneath his black face veil, the man who had been fearfully trembling just moments ago silently curved the corners of his lips into a bewitching smile, and his black eyes twinkled brilliantly.
VIN: I’m 99% certain this Prince Long is Long Qingxie, but what’s with the appearance? That aside, soooo cute!
(P.S. You can find the original, unedited image here.)